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GOP majority on Nassau legislature cuts $100 million in projected revenue from county budget

Leg. William Gaylor listens to a speaker at

Leg. William Gaylor listens to a speaker at a vote on Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's 2022 budget in Mineola on Monday. Credit: Raychel Brightman

Nassau's Majority Republican legislators on Monday approved a cut of $100 million in projected county revenue from real estate and red light camera fees as part of their amendments to County Executive Laura Curran's proposed 2022 budget.

The vote was 11-8 with the entire Republican caucus in favor and all Democrats opposed.

The Republican changes to Curran's budget rely on robust estimates of county sales tax revenue, which makes up about 40% of the county's total revenue.

Democrats voted against the amendments, and the motion to bring the amendments to a vote. They abstained from the vote on the amended budget.

Curran, a Democrat, proposed a $3.5 billion spending plan last month that includes a $70 million cut in the property tax levy. She has ten days to veto the Republican amendments.

A legislative super majority of 13 votes would be needed to override any veto by the county executive.

"The Legislative Majority today continued their flailing efforts to obstruct and delay action using the same political games that bankrupted our County under [former Republican County Executive] Ed Mangano," Curran spokesman Jordan Carmon said in a statement.

"The County Executive thanks the Legislative Minority for voting against the amendments the GOP majority is using to throw the County’s budget into fiscal chaos."

The administration did not immediately say whether Curran would veto the amendment.

Curran and 18 of 19 legislators are running for reelection on Nov. 2.

The GOP amendments would cut taxes by an additional $50 million, bringing the total property tax cut to $120 million; remove fees imposed under Mangano, including the red light camera public safety fee and tax map verification fee, and reduce the mortgage recording fee, costing the county $100 million in revenue, and eliminate seven members of Curran's public relations staff, saving the county $1.1 million.

"The county is overtaxing its residents. It's time to return the money to the residents," Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said in his opening remarks. "The middle class is leaving the county. Our seniors are leaving the county. The working class is leaving the county,"

Nicolello called Curran's sales tax forecast "ridiculous" and her plan "over budgeting and over taxing."

The county collected $999.7 million in sales tax from June 1 to Aug. 31, 2021, according to a memo to Republican legislators on October 12. The sales tax revenue was $207.5 million, or 26.2%, over receipts for the same period last year, the memo said.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said his caucus supported the Curran budget and called the changes put forth by the Republican Majority "fiscally irresponsible and reckless."

He said Democrats were still awaiting an opinion from NIFA, the county's financial control board, which is expected later in the week. Abrahams said he believed Curran "has proposed a thoughtful, balanced budget that has delivered significant tax relief to the residents that have been hit hard by the pandemic."

Abrahams pointed out last year's county budget relied on 34.8% in sales tax revenue, which Curran increased to an estimated 42% this year. He noted the Republican majority's amendments hold a 44% percent reliance on sales tax revenue.

"I haven't seen anyone quantifying those sales tax numbers — no one," Abrahams said, later calling the amendments "overly dependent on fiscal shenanigans and risky, inflated sales tax projections."

Legis. John Ferretti (R-Levittown), in urging support for the amendments, reminded Democrats they had for years railed against the real estate and public safety fees.

"You have a chance to get rid of these fees. If you don't take it then they're your fees," Ferretti said.

Last September, amid uncertainty due to the pandemic, Curran proposed a $3.3 million budget that estimated a sales tax revenue decline of 20%. In March 2021, an unaudited report by the county's Office of Management and Budget showed sales tax revenue declined by 8% and the county ended the 2020 fiscal year with a $75 million surplus. Republicans had projected a 12% drop in sales tax revenue at the time.

In May, the county received the first half of $385 million in federal pandemic aid, $100 million of which the Curran administration allocated toward direct payments of $375 to residents making up to $500,000.

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